Rights Commission brings demos into spotlight

Source: Rights Commission brings demos into spotlight – DailyNews Live January 10, 2017

Tendai Kamhungira and Freedom Mashava

HARARE – The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chairperson, Elasto
Mugwadi, has set the cat among the pigeons after he reaffirmed that every
Zimbabwean had a right to demonstrate and freely associate with a
political party of their choice, in a statement which flies in the face of
President Robert Mugabe’s government which has been using force to stop
pro-democracy groups from holding protests.

Mugwadi’s statements come as opposition and pro-democracy groups have
warned that they will escalate their protests against Mugabe’s government
this year in a bid to force the nonagenarian to act on the worsening
economic situation.

On the other hand, police maintain a ban on all demonstrations in central
Harare, despite the Constitution guaranteeing such actions.

“People have the right to assembly, to association, to choose their
political leaders but by free will, not by coercion and that those who are
going about politicking have to do it in a free environment without
inciting anybody,” Mugwadi said on Friday, while welcoming Makanatsa
Makonese to the post of executive secretary of the organisation that had
been vacant since 2015, following Jester Charewa’s move to the High Court

“Rights by the way come with responsibility, do unto others as you would
expect them to do unto you and if you are not going to do it in a peaceful
manner, you are then violating the next person’s right and the police have
a duty to make sure that such demonstrations are carried out peacefully.

“…not everybody who is in the queue of demonstrators there has all the
best of intensions. They will be out there to cause havoc and if it’s not
controlled you will end up having property destroyed, vandalism, thefts
and all those issues,” added Mugwadi.

He said next year’s national elections must be violent-free, as
perpetrators of violence will meet the consequences.

“What we are saying is winning an election is not by violence but it has
to be in form of following democratic principles enshrined also in our
Constitution,” said the former Immigration Department boss.

The ZHRC – a constitutional body, whose main mandate is to protect,
promote and enforce human rights – collided with Mugabe last year after it
released a damning report, claiming Zanu PF was only distributing food to
its members and neglecting those from opposition parties.

Mugabe publicly attacked Mugwadi and the ZHRC by dismissing their report
as an outright lie.

In 2014, following the Hurungwe West by-election, where former Mashonaland
West provincial chairman, Temba Mliswa narrowly lost to Zanu PF’s Keith
Guzah, the commission released a damning report about the violent
activities by the ruling party that were perpetrated on innocent civilians
– leading to the prosecution of some of the people who participated in the
violent acts.

On Friday, Mugwadi said the ZHRC would carry its work without fear or
favour in investigating human rights abuses and politically-motivated
violence  before, during and after elections.

“The Constitution says we can direct the commissioner general of police to
carry out investigations and prosecute or cause the prosecution of
perpetrators and we have done this before, we will continue to do it and
we hope those who will be participating in the elections should be
deterred by the fact that if they are caught on the wrong side of the law,
they will be prosecuted,” Mugwadi said.

“We are saying to everybody who is going to be participating, if you get
involved in violence, if you have failed to convince someone, because you
have your own proper platform, you are promising people you are going to
do A, B, C for them, you might as well not get out of your house because
you will be arrested if you want to do it in a violent way.”